Thursday, March 12, 2009

For Barbie 50 is fabulous.

Turning 50 is a milestone in any woman's life. Looks improve for some; others keep their girlish figures. Still others pull together a wardrobe that expresses their personality. But it's rare to have all three - unless you're made of plastic and your name is Barbie.

Born Barbara Millicent Roberts on March 9, 1959, in Willows, Wisconsin, Barbie, the 11 ½-inch, or 29-centimeter, tall doll, is the top-selling toy in the world, according to the market research company NPD Group. She has traveled the world and worked more than 100 different jobs over the past half century. But Barbie's real profession is clothes horse. The doll's manufacturer, Mattel, has estimated that more than one billion fashion items have been created for Barbie and her friends in the collection since 1959.

With that kind of wardrobe available it comes as no surprise that Barbie was the earliest connection for some top-name fashion designers to dress making and design.

From her first appearance in a graphic black and white swimsuit, Barbie has always had fashion sense. And over the years her tastes have grown to appreciate more designer fare. From Benetton and Burberry to Versace and Vera Wang, Barbie has been dressed by more than 70 designers, including Giorgio Armani, Christian Lacroix and Monique Lhuillier.

For her 50th birthday Mattel decided to highlight Barbie's connection to fashion and push the brand even further into the world of luxury and high-end design with a series of events and partnerships.

During New York Fashion Week in February, Mattel is staging a full-scale Barbie fashion show with 50 designers creating life-size outfits inspired by the doll. Although the names of the designers have yet to be announced, Christian Louboutin has confirmed that he will be designing pumps in Barbie's favorite shade of pink to be worn with each of his outfits.

Wang has concocted a Barbie wedding gown with a sale price exceeding $15,000. The dress comes with a Barbie doll wearing a miniature version of the same gown. Jeremy Scott has used Barbie as the inspiration for his capsule collection for the spring, and Bloomingdale's will dress up the windows of its New York flagship store during fashion week with Barbie dolls.

This year will also see the launch of a line of beauty products under the Barbie label with names like "Plastic Smooth" for skin care and "All Doll'd Up" for cosmetics. Meanwhile, Assouline, the publishing house known for its fashion tomes, has just published a $500 coffee-table book entitled "Barbie" with images of the doll dressed by designers like Miuccia Prada, Karl Lagerfield and Alexander McQueen.

The Barbie party extends beyond the United States. In Paris 50 accessory designers have used Barbie as their muse to create everything from shoes to handbags. The results are to be shown at the Prêt à Porter Paris salon this month. In Canada the bath and body line Cake Beauty has come up with a Barbie fragrance. And in Shanghai, Mattel will open this month the House of Barbie, an eight-story shop that will include a spa, Barbie museum, restaurants, clothing and dolls.

"Barbie is influencing the world because she is part of culture and life and fashion," said the designer Alber Elbaz. For Barbie 50 is fabulous.

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